Sunday, April 11, 2010

Charmin mess with the bottom line

One of the great things about the human race, we're always being told, is its adaptability.

Wasn't it humans who developed tools, conquered fire, broke the hold of gravity and walked on the moon?

Wasn't it humans who learned to read and write, to count and to calculate, and wasn't it all that and more that makes us human?

Well, yes, it was and it is.

So why is it, when we're supposedly such models of flexibility and innovation, that we're also so resistant to change?

Why, when we supposedly find it so easy to rise to technological challenges like recording off Sky+, editing movies on our iPods, or fixing the door back on the icebox when it falls off for the 15th time this week, do we get all worked up when someone changes the name of a perfectly memorable toilet tissue from Charmin to Cushelle?

You could almost hear the huffing and puffing of indignation from sofas across the land as the first TV adverts went out. (Not a small amount of it emanating from the elegant chaise longue in the front parlour at Dixon Towers.)

"What?" spluttered viewer upon viewer, their voices merging in chorus above the rooftops of Great Britain. "What was wrong with Charmin? Why have they retired the cheery bear and replaced it with some new-fangled marsupial?"

Yes, sadly (if it's possible to get sentimental about bog paper), Charmin has gone the same way as Marathon, Opal Fruits and the artist formerly known as Prince, then known as a squiggle, then known as Prince again because the squiggle was too hard to say properly.

Charmin has been re-branded, and even if you've never used the stuff in your life – if Izal was good enough for our grandparents, it's good enough for us – you could be forgiven for feeling that in some way the fabric has been altered without your permission.

But why pamper life's complexity? After all, ridicule is nothing to be scared of. (Spot the references, pop-pickers.)

The makers of the erstwhile Marathon bar changed its name to Snickers to fit in with a US-inspired global marketing plan. But as far as can be determined by a quick trawl of the internet (which is never wrong), Charmin is still Charmin on the other side of the pond.

So perhaps the re-branding is down to the animals. Golden labrador puppies take a lot of beating when it comes to – well, you know – and maybe the Charmin bear with his cheeky grin didn't quite cut the mustard in some European marketing focus group. Koalas look cuddly. Cushelle sounds cuddly. So let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it.

And that's the bottom line.

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